New Delhi: New passports for citizens who have Emigration Check Required (ECR) status will have orange cover jackets, instead of the traditional dark blue.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday announced a new category of colour passports after a decision was taken to discontinue the last page of the booklet, which contained information related to passport holder’s father, mother, spouse, address, ECR and details of the old passport booklet.
“As the last page of the passport would not be printed now, the passport holders with ECR status would be issued a passport with orange colour passport jacket and those with non-ECR status would continue to get a blue passport,” said the MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Friday.
While Indian passports have a blue cover, diplomatic and official passports have white and red jackets, respectively.
Applicants who haven’t cleared 10th standard are given a passport with ECR category. This means if they want to travel abroad for work to a group of 18 countries, most of them in Gulf, they would only be allowed to leave India after obtaining an ‘Emigration clearance’ certificate from the office of Protector of Emigrants.
In an official statement, Kumar said that the decision was based on recommendations from a report submitted by a three-member panel of officials from MEA and Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The committee had been set up to “examine various issues pertaining to passport applications where mother/child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to passport issues to children with single parent and to adopted children”.
The recommendation – that was accepted by the ministry – suggested that the MEA should “explore” the possibility of “doing away the printing of information contained in the passport booklet such as names of father/legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address contained in the last page of the passport”.
After examining International Civil Aviation Organisation’s guidelines regarding machine-readable travel documents, MEA decided that the last page of the passport booklet will no longer be printed. This would mean that the new passports will no longer be useful as a proof of address for various applications.
No date has been given for the start of issuing of the new passports. The existing passports would remain valid till their date of expiry.
“The Indian Security Press (ISP), Nasik, would be designing the new passport booklets in due course. Till such time the new passport booklets are designed, manufactured and made available to the ministry, the passports and other travel documents would continue to be printed with the last page,” said Kumar.
Under ICAO guidelines, only certain categories are mandatory on the passport. These are all included in the first page of the passport booklet. Officials point out that India had been the only country to have an additional page at the end of the passport booklet with information.
A senior government official claimed that a passport cover which visibly stigmatised its holder as not being well-educated may not be helpful and rather make them an easy prey for unscrupulous elements.